Cervical cancer death rates are higher than previously thought

The risk of dying from cervical cancer may be much higher than experts previously believed – particularly among older and black women, according to a new study.

Black women in the US are dying from the disease at a rate 77 percent higher and white women at a rate 47 percent higher, according to the study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.

Previous estimates didn’t account for women whose cervixes were removed in hysterectomies, which eliminate the risk of developing the cancer, according to the study published Monday in the journal Cancer.

“Prior calculations did not account for hysterectomy because the same general method is used across all cancer statistics,” said Anne Rositch, assistant professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins and lead author of the study.

That method is to gauge the impact of cancer across a total population without accounting for factors outside of gender, she said, CNN reported.

Meanwhile, many women who are dying are over age of 65, a cutoff point where guidelines no longer recommend women be regularly screened for cervical cancer.

Last year, there were about 12,990 new cases of cervical cancer and 4,120 deaths, according to the National Cancer Institute.

“This is a preventable disease and women should not be getting it, let alone dying from it,” Rositch said. “Since the goal of a screening program is to ultimately reduce mortality from cervical cancer, then you must have accurate estimates within the population targeted by those programs — adult women with a cervix.

“These findings motivate us to better understand why, despite the wide availability of screening and treatment, older and black women are still dying from cervical cancer at such high rates in the United States,” she said.

For the study, researchers analyzed data on US cervical cancer deaths from 2000 to 2012, from the National Center for Health Statistics and the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results databases.

The data were limited to just 12 states, but the researchers said they still provided a nationally representative sample of women.

The researchers also collected data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System on how many women 20 and older reported ever having a hysterectomy.

Before hysterectomies were taken into account, the data showed that cervical cancer killed about 5.7 out of 100,000 black women and 3.2 per 100,000 white women.

After adjusting for hysterectomies, the rate was 10.1 per 100,000 black women and 4.7 per 100,000 white women.

“We can’t tell from our study what might be contributing to the differences in cervical cancer mortality by age and race,” Rositch said. “Now that we have a better understanding of the magnitude of the problem, we have to understand the reasons underlying the problem.”

Cervical cancer is highly preventable because screening tests and a vaccine to prevent human papilloma virus, or HPV, which can cause the disease, are both available, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Racial disparity may be explained by lack of access or limited access to cervical cancer screening programs among black women, when compared to whites,” said Dr. Marcela del Carmen, a gynecologic oncologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, who was not involved in the new study, CNN reported.

“This gap and disparity need to be addressed with initiatives focusing on better access to prevention or screening programs, better access to HPV vaccination programs and improved access and adherence to standard of care treatment for cervical cancer,” she said.

The American Cancer Society recommends that women begin cervical cancer screenings at age 21 by having a pap test every three years. Then, beginning at age 30, they should have a pap test combined with a HPV test every five years.

Rat Virus Strikes 8 People in Illinois and Wisconsin

 virus rarely seen in the United States recently infected eight people in Wisconsin and Illinois who were working in facilities where pet rats are bred, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Authorities first became aware of the infections when two people in Wisconsin who operated a rat-breeding facility fell ill in December 2016, with one going to the hospital. Both breeders tested positive for Seoul virus, which is part of the Hantavirus family , a group of viruses that typically infect rodents, the CDC said.

Health officials then discovered that the Wisconsin breeders had purchased rats from two rat-breeding facilities in Illinois, and tests showed that six people who worked at the Illinois facilities were infected with the same virus.

The Seoul virus is known to infect a species of rat called the Norway rat (also known as the brown rat ) all over the world. Sometimes, people can catch Seoul virus from rats. So far, most human cases of Seoul virus have occurred in Asia. This is the first time that human Seoul virus cases have been linked with pet rats in the United States, the CDC said.

People become infected with Seoul virus when they are bitten by infected rats, or when they come into contact with the blood, saliva or urine of infected rats, the agency said.

The virus cannot spread from person to person, and “therefore, the general public is at extremely low risk,” from these cases, Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), said in a statement . “Out of an abundance of caution, we want to let the public know in the event they have recently purchased rats from an affected facility and become ill.”

The CDC is working to determine if anyone else who bought the rats has become infected with Seoul virus, and to make sure that any rats that are infected are not distributed from the facilities, the agency said.

People who become infected with the Seoul virus can develop fever, severe headaches, back and abdominal pain, chills, blurred vision, red eyes, or a rash, the CDC said. But some people infected with the virus don’t show any symptoms. All eight people infected in the current outbreak have recovered, and five out of the six people in Illinois who tested positive for the virus did not show symptoms, the IDPH said. Rats infected with the virus do not typically show symptoms.

People who may have purchased rats from the affected breeders should contact their local state or health departments, the CDC said.

To avoid catching an infection from rats, the CDC said that people can take the following precautions with their pets:

  • Wash your hands after touching or feeding pet rats, or cleaning their cages.
  • Make sure pet rats are properly secured (in a cage) so they don’t contaminate surfaces in your home.
  • If possible, clean rodent cages and rodent pet supplies outside of your house, and never clean the animals’ cages or supplies in your kitchen or other areas where you prepare food.
  • Avoid bites and scratches from rodents .
  • Take your pet to a veterinarian for routine care to keep the animal healthy and disease-free.

new ways to stop food cravings

 This is he dreaded cycle of food cravings, and it is full of twists and turn and ups and downs. As humans, we eat for a lot of different reasons; sometimes for emotional reasons, most of the time for physical needs. No matter the trigger, cravings can throw our healthy eating habits off track. You don’t have to be the victim though; here are four simple tricks to combat both the physical and emotional cravings that sneak their ways into our days.

1. Wear a bracelet as a reminder

When making a decision to diet or eat healthier, you need to set forth your intention. Your intention (or goal) may be to lose weight or to generally feel better. However, intention alone is not enough to bring forth your goal, there is also action. And if intentions and actions don’t align, goals cannot be reached. This is where a reminder bracelet can be useful. Any piece of string or cord can serve this purpose. Tie the string on your dominant hand. The string will serve as a visual cue for you to lift those subconscious goals to your conscious thinking and bring action and intention in unison. Whenever you are about to give into a craving and reach for the cupcake, instead will see the bracelet and immediately be reminded and aware of your overall goals. This will also give you time to take a moment to stop and think about what you’re reaching for before it is too late. Refuse the craving by refocusing on your best you and you will be sure thank yourself later. After all, no one ever regretted not eating that handful of M&Ms.

2. Eat fiber

Fiber, the indigestible portion of a carbohydrate, can aid in preventing certain food and sugar cravings. The fiber found in whole grains, legumes, veggies, and fruit slows down the introduction of sugar into the bloodstream and therefore, helps control blood sugar highs and lows. This blood sugar stability helps to provide you with sustained energy between meals. High refined carbohydrate and low fiber meals like cereal and milk, sandwiches made on white bread, pretzels and crackers lead to high blood sugar levels. This is followed by a rush of sugar into the blood, a resultant insulin spike, and a powerful uptake of sugar into the cells. The sugar rushing into the cells leaves little for the blood, which results in low blood sugar. Low blood sugar is an emergency state which can lead to additional cravings and hunger. Fiber helps prevent this fluctuation of blood sugar which leads to homeostatic blood sugar and therefore, reduced cravings. Try adding fiber to each of your meals with high-fiber foods like high fiber cereal, raspberries, artichokes, whole-wheat bread, and flax and chia seeds.

3. Make your dentist proud

Following each meal, try to floss, brush your teeth or use mouthwash. Most foods don’t taste very great directly after using mouthwash or a minty toothpaste, so if you take a moment to freshen up, you’ll be less likely to eat more. Flossing also provides a sense of satisfaction, which may take the place of food as a reward. Flossing is a focused and mindful activity, which is, within itself, another way to defeat cravings. After each meal, the leftover food in your teeth breed bacteria, which degrade enamel. Flossing or brushing will also eliminate this bacteria, which is certainly an added bonus. At work, on the go, or in situations where busting out your toothbrush isn’t the norm, popping a Listerine Breathstrip can work similarly.

4. Low-carb living

When starting a low carb diet, many people assume that the less carbs they eat, the more they will crave them, when actually eating a low-carb diet can help reduce cravings.  A study published in the journal “Eat and Weight Disorders” revealed just that. The lower-carb group (35 percent of calories coming from carbs versus 65 percent of calories coming from carbs) in the study actually saw reduced carbohydrate cravings the longer they abstained from overeating them. In fact, the study also revealed that any low calorie diet helped reduce cravings in people. Furthermore, additional clinical studies have supported the same conclusion that a carbohydrate restricting diet reduces cravings for sweets and additional carbohydrates. Diets that help control your blood sugar better, like low-carb diets aid in reducing sugar cravings in a similar way to how eating fiber does.

E-cigarettes may lure teens

 E-cigarettes aren’t tied to a decline in teen smoking and the devices may actually entice some youth who are unlikely to try traditional cigarettes, a U.S. study suggests.

Youth smoking has steadily declined over the past decade, with no steeper decrease after e-cigarettes debuted on the U.S. market in 2007, researchers report in Pediatrics.

“There is strong evidence in adults, together with some, but more limited evidence in youth, that e-cigarettes are associated with less, not more quitting cigarettes,” said study co-author Dr. Stanton Glantz, director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco.

“The fact is that for kids, as with adults, most e-cigarette users are ‘dual users,’ meaning that they smoked cigarettes at the same time that they smoked e-cigarettes,” Glantz added by email.

Big U.S. tobacco companies are all developing e-cigarettes, battery-powered gadgets with a heating element that turns liquid nicotine and flavorings into a cloud of vapor that users inhale.

For the past decade, public health experts have debated whether the gadgets might help with smoking cessation or at least be a safer alternative to smoking traditional combustible cigarettes, or whether they might lure a new generation into nicotine addiction.

In the current study, researchers analyzed survey data collected from more than 140,000 middle and high school students between 2004 and 2014.

During the study period, the overall percentages of teens who reported any smoking decreased from 40 percent to 22 percent.

The proportion of youth who identified themselves as current smokers dropped from 16 percent to about 6 percent during the same period.

But teen cigarette smoking rates did not decline faster after the arrival of e-cigarettes in the U.S. between 2007 and 2009.

And combined e-cigarette and cigarette use among adolescents in 2014 was higher than total cigarette use in 2009, the study found.

Researchers also looked at characteristics that might make teens more at risk for smoking, such as living with a smoker or wearing clothing with tobacco products or logos.

While teen cigarette smokers in the study often appeared to fit this profile, adolescents who used only e-cigarettes didn’t display these risk factors.

This suggests that at least some low-risk youth might not be using nicotine products if e-cigarettes were not an option, the authors conclude.

The study isn’t a controlled experiment designed to test whether e-cigarette use directly impacts smoking regular cigarettes, the authors note. Researchers also lacked data on teens who dropped out of school, who might have higher rate of tobacco use than youth still attending school.

Even so, this is now the eighth long-term study to suggest teens who use e-cigarettes are more likely to start smoking, said Dr. Thomas Wills, interim director of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at the University of Hawaii Cancer in Honolulu.

“E-cigarette advocates have tried to argue that this is only because those teens who used e-cigarettes were high-risk people who were going to smoke anyway and their e-cigarette use had nothing to do with this,” Wills, author of an accompanying editorial, said by email.

“A number of studies have now specifically examined this hypothesis,” Wills added. “In each case, the empirical results went against the confounding hypothesis, so we can be confident that the effect of e-cigarettes for contributing to uptake of smoking is a real effect and is not just due to a group of high-risk persons.”

Law aiding infants at risk for hearing loss

The study, published in Pediatrics, is the first to assess how implementation of a state-wide screening can pick up hearing loss in infants due to congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV). Utah, which has the nation’s highest birth rate, was the first state to mandate CMV screening for infants who fail newborn hearing tests. The Utah law is proving a model for other states.

“Our study demonstrates that policy changes such as the one in Utah that required CMV testing after failed newborn hearing screening can improve the identification of infants with hearing loss, even those without congenital CMV,” said Marissa Diener, lead author and associate professor at the University of Utah’s Department of Family and Consumer Studies. “This is important because timely identification of hearing loss can enable earlier intervention, which is linked to better language outcomes for children.”

The Utah legislation also provided funds for educational campaigns surrounding congenital CMV, which is important given its prevalence, Diener said.

“Although congenital Zika infection is less prevalent in the U. S. than CMV, many people have heard of the Zika virus but fewer are familiar with cytomegalovirus,” Diener said.

Cytomegalovirus is the most common congenital infection, affecting about 1 in 150 children or 30,000 newborns in the U.S. each year. In Utah that equates to roughly one baby born per day.

An infant born with the infection often shows no symptoms or signs; most of those infants do not experience any long-term effects. But the virus can potentially damage the brain, eyes and inner ear. It is estimated that 6 percent to 30 percent of hearing loss in children may be due to congenital CMV, making it the leading non-genetic cause of hearing loss in the United States.

In 2013, Utah became the first state to enact a public health initiative requiring CMV education and testing. The Utah Department of Health was tasked with creating a program about birth defects associated with and ways to prevent congenital CMV. (For more information about the program, please visithealth.utah.gov/cmv.)

“CMV is transmitted through body fluids. Washing your hands often, especially after wiping a young child’s nose, mouth or tears or changing diapers is important, said Stephanie Browning McVicar, co-author and director of the Cytomegalovirus Public Health Initiative at the Utah Department of Health. “What is also essential, though, is not sharing food, drink or utensils, particularly with young children, while pregnant.”

The bill also requires all infants who fail two hearing screens to be tested for CMV within three weeks of birth unless a parent declines the test.

By using that time frame, health providers are able to distinguish between congenital CMV and CMV acquired after birth, which is rarely associated with health problems. The screening parameters also are designed to identify infants who do not have any symptoms but are most at risk for hearing loss.

The researchers used Utah Department of Health and Vital Records data to assess whether 509 asymptomatic infants who failed hearing tests between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2015 underwent CMV screening and the results of that screening.

They found that 62 percent of these infants were tested for CMV and three-quarters were screened within the three-week time frame. Fourteen of those infants were CMV positive and six had hearing loss. Of the infants who were tested more than 21 days after birth, seven were CMV positive and three had hearing loss.

The researchers conclude that because these infants had no signs of infection, it is “highly likely” they would not have been diagnosed later as having congenitally acquired CMV. Identification of CMV-positive infants increased opportunities to watch their health more closely and intervene, when needed, more quickly. They also found more infants received timely diagnostic hearing tests after the law took effect.

“This result has major implications for all children who fail their newborn hearing screening since speech and language outcomes depend upon early hearing loss diagnosis,” said Albert Park, co-author and chief of the U’s pediatric otolaryngology division. “CMV infected infants with hearing loss may benefit from antiviral therapy. This question will hopefully be addressed in an upcoming NIH funded clinical trial that our group will be conducting to compare hearing, speech and language outcomes in CMV infected infants.” The researchers suggest, based on their analysis of the data, that screening compliance could be increased by focusing educational and outreach efforts on certain groups who were less likely to get their infants screened for congenital CMV: less educated mothers, babies not born in a hospital and infants who received hearing tests later than 14 days after birth.